Rose Water

Chapter 4

Late Sunday Night…

I walk into the house and come face to face with Craig as he is coming down the stairs. We lock eyes and the world stops spinning on its axis. We both breathe deeply as the distance between us grows. "Where the fuck have you been?" he asks me.

I answer him with silence, deep and resounding, the kind of silence that follows after an announcement of death. I watch him watching me, waiting for me to answer. He moves toward me and I move toward the stairs. We are circling each other like male animals in the wild, neither one wanting to back down. "I asked you a question," he says. We stop moving. I look at him and smile. I have no idea why, but I smile, just a small one.

"I went out for a while," I say as I look into his eyes. I pull my bottom lip into my mouth and bite down hard. I am swallowing the words that want to join us in this dance of dominance. I see his mouth open to say something else but before he can I turn my back on him and his bullshit and walk up the stairs. I close myself inside my room and wait for the dawning of tomorrow. I can feel my lids getting heavy as I listen to the rhythm of my own heartbeat; detail.

Too soon I see sun pouring through my dreams. I close my eyes tighter, willing away the inevitability of the day. When I am sure that I cannot sleep through today I open one eye and then the other. I am still in my bed, in my house…in my life. I push the covers off and walk to the bathroom, stopping to listen to the sounds of my parents and sister as they move around outside my door. I close the door firmly and walk toward the toilet, voiding my bladder and flushing it; landscape.

I strip free of my clothes and I feel weightless. I resist the urge to exam myself in the mirror and get into the shower. Why look? I know the bruises and bandages are there. The water is not quite hot and it's not completely cold. It's neutral, that temperature that manipulates you into twisting the hot water knob, knowing that it's already all the way on. I grab the soap and make quick work of getting washed.

I dry off and grab a clean uniform, slipping into it easily. I grab my book bag and fling the strap over my head. I listen by the door and when I am sure I hear nothing I open it and head down the stairs and out the front door. I have pure freedom…until this afternoon anyway. I walk the distance to Saint James alone.

I reach the school and climb the stone steps where Daphne is waiting for me. "Hey," she says. I know she is dying to ask me how I feel. I don't feel shit. I look over at her and allow my attitude to soften a little.

"I felt like being alone," I tell her as we walk into the building. I throw everything into my locker and grab the books that I need. We head off toward our respective classes; time to focus.

Halfway through biology and I am staring at the diagram for the frog dissection with interest. I listen as Mr. Hammond talks about the anatomy and reproductive system. I listen as he talks… I listen. I listen as he tells us to begin. I pick up the scalpel and press it into the flesh of the small creature, marveling at the ease in which it cuts and the delicate line it leaves behind.

I continue to cut into the frog and when Mr. Hammond tells us to start cleaning up I realize that I have stared at the scalpel for the past thirty minutes. I take the scalpel and wrap it in a paper towel, inserting it into my pocket; Comfort.

I move through the rest of the day in silence, only answering when I have to. The teachers don't seem to notice, hell, no one seems to notice. If only that was the case with Shaun. Shaun notices everything and anything that is none of his fucking business.

When the hallways are less crowded and the teachers are otherwise occupied I walk out of the building. I have no desire to be in school today so I am taking a sabbatical, I feel as if I almost deserve it. The sunlight hits my face and I take a deep breath. I take one look back at the school and walk down the back stairs and across the grass.

I sit at the bus stop and stare at the flattened gum spots on the ground, they are old and faded. I stare at them and wonder if the people who spit out gum ever feel an ounce of guilt about what they did, disposing of gum in such a public arena, leaving it to fight its own war.

I see the bus pull up in front of me and I hesitate. I really wasn't intending to get on the bus it was just a nice place to sit. "What the fuck," I say to myself. Nothing is as sweet as a new adventure, right? I search for the correct change and board the bus. I have no idea where I am going and right now that seems like the greatest feeling in the world.


I get in my car and head back to the house. Why bother staying at work? I have not been able to think straight since I came home on Saturday. I am worried about my family; it all seems to be falling apart. Everything changed this weekend, I could feel it. I watched Justin sit at the table not eating and my heart broke. I have not spoken to him. He won't speak to anyone, except Molly.

I pull the car to a stop in the driveway and for a few minutes I am frozen. I sit in the car listening to the engine relax itself. I smell the faint reminder of an air freshener and the warm smell of heated leather rising from the seats. I blink my eyes and jolt myself back to reality. I open the door and slid out of the cars warm leather seated comfort.

I open the front door and walk inside the house. I am greeted by silence and it is golden. I walk up the stairs to my room, the air teasing me with its secrets. 'If these walls could talk,' I think to myself. If they could talk I would demand answers to my questions. I would open my mouth and scream for pity and understanding.

If these walls could talk I would know the secrets that lie within this structure, delighting in my confusion. I remove my suit and lay it over the bed. I slip into some jeans and a shirt. I walk out of my bedroom and head toward the stairs, content to start dinner early. Before I can reach the first step I stop, the air around me holds its breath, waiting.

I turn slightly to the right and I can see that Justin has not closed his door all the way. My brain is yelling stop, don't stoop to that level, don't become one of those parents who snoop. I stand still, the beat of my heart vibrating like a drum, the feeling traveling through my body.

I move forward a little and push the door open, shuddering as it bangs into the wall behind it, betraying my position. I look around the hallway, knowing there is no one here. When my heart is back in my chest I step into the room.

I see all the clothes and papers scattered around the floor. I know there is no way that Justin did all this. I think back to the kitchen and I know that Craig must have played a part in this mess too. I step over item after item, leading myself deeper into a cave with no obvious place to turn back, to escape. My mind tells me to stop but I can't… I won't.

I feel the floor under my left foot; it is not flat, not even. I look down and see that I am standing on one of Justin's sketchbooks; the brave soldier must have survived the battle.

I bend over and pick it up, wondering how it managed to escape Craig's wrath. As I move it through the air four separate pictures, Polaroid's, go fluttering to the ground. I pick them up and come face to face with my unspoken fear. I look at the pictures, all teenage boys, smiling and kissing my son. The voice in my head taps me on the shoulder and says that it doesn't prove anything, but I know… it changes everything.

I hold the pictures in my right hand as I look up, my gaze resting on the posters and collage of pictures on his walls. No girls.

I walk over to the collage and lean in close. There is not a girl in sight except Daphne, I never noticed before or I just plain didn't care. I can feel my skin flush as realization creeps into my core and paralyzes my diaphragm, stealing my ability to inhale air into my lungs. I close my eyes and sink down onto his bed. My world is spinning and I am struggling for balance.

I am so wrapped up in trying to find my own center of calm that I don't hear the front door close.


I am sitting on a bench in the park watching Gus as he plays with some other kids in the sandbox. I look at the sand and cringe at the thought of it depositing itself on the floor of my shower. I took the day off after spending all night with a fussy toddler. It took hours for me to realize that it was a new tooth that was causing all my problems and then it took me another hour to find the orajel shit.

I sit my laptop on my lap and start checking my emails, nothing special just the standard stuff. I hear the bus roll to a stop behind me and the hairs on the back of my head stand up. I look up and turn enough to see the same blonde from the museum getting off the bus. I swallow and watch as he adjusts his strap and starts to walk slowly through the park.

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